Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"Africa's Great Green Wall Is a Conservation — and World — Wonder"

From HowStuffWorks, September 15:
Africa is on its way to completing the next world wonder — a nearly 5,000-mile (8,047-kilometer) belt of greenery and conservation initiatives covering the continent's entire width. This lofty goal, the Great Green Wall, is not a PR stunt. It's an African-led movement designed to breathe life into the continent's degraded landscapes across the Sahel, which is the vast semi-arid region of Africa separating the Sahara Desert to the north and tropical savannas to the south, according to Euro News.

This area is experiencing a slew of ecological crises due to overgrazing, drought and poor farming practices. At the same time, desertification here is on the rise. The Sahara Desert is expanding, with one study, published in the May 2018 issue of the Journal of Climate, showing it has grown 10 percent since 1920. The ambitious Great Green Wall, which will be Earth's largest living structure once complete, is designed to save the Sahel from ecological implosion.

"The objective is to address poverty and land degradation in the Sahel," International Union for Conservation of Nature program officer Chris Magero says in an email. "The Great Green Wall provides an amalgamate approach to addressing these multiple issues while ensuring that sustainable land management stays at the center of these discussions."

What Is the Great Green Wall?
The Great Green Wall, a project spearheaded by the African Union in 2007, was initially designed to build a string of trees across the continent to curb desertification, helping Sahel communities survive and thrive. But, there were some issues early on. First and foremost, the science behind tree-planting as the sole solution wasn't fully there, according to Smithsonian. Many of the first-planted trees died, which is when leaders acknowledged it was time to change course. The Great Green Wall team analyzed indigenous land-use techniques and adapted their methodology accordingly.

From here, the project evolved from a wall of trees to more of a continent-wide movement, where Africans combat land degradation, desertification and drought based on proven indigenous practices. In some cases that's tree planting, which the Great Green Wall largely hires locals to do. For other land stretches, it's indigenous adaptions for agriculture or simply growing grass. In other cases, it's a mix of all of the above. This "regreening" is truly transformational, for both the land and local people....

HT: the Desertification blog

"Britain 'offers the EU a last minute concession on fishing' to try to break post-Brexit trade talks deadlock..."

From The Daily Mail:
Britain has offered the EU a last minute concession on the crunch issue of post-Brexit fishing rights in an attempt to break the negotiating deadlock in trade talks, it was claimed today. 
The UK is said to have offered Brussels a three year 'transition period' which would give EU trawlers time to adapt to new fishing arrangements in British waters. 

The plans would reportedly see the permitted catches of EU boats 'phased down' between 2021 and 2024 to avoid an immediate cliff edge. 

The proposals are included in a new negotiating paper which the UK has presented to the bloc ahead of the forthcoming round of trade negotiations, according to The Guardian. 

The move, not denied by Downing Street, will be seen as a last ditch attempt to resolve one of the key areas of disagreement between the two sides which have held up progress on other matters....



And Now It's Lab Grown Shrimp In Singapore

Following on yesterday's "‘Sushi-grade’ fish from salmon cells grown in lab by California startup".
From The Fish Site:

Investors flock to cell-based shrimp co
Shiok Meats, a cell-based shrimp company based in Singapore, has raised US$12.6 million in funding.
The series A funding round has been led by sustainable aquaculture fund Aqua-Spark*, while other investors include SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, venture capital funds from Korea, Japan, USA and Europe, as well as angel investors.

Shiok Meats, which has now raised $20 million in total, plans to use the funds to contribute towards building its pilot plant in Singapore. It aims to launch its first minced shrimp product in 2022 and follow up with crab and lobster versions. If successful, it will become the first company in the world to have a fully functioning commercial pilot plant for cell-based crustacean production....

We last looked at Shiok in January when they were but a single-celled organism:
Singapore Startup Hopes to Hook Diners With Lab-Grown Shrimp

"The First Woman To Sail Around the World"

From  the "Things I did not know" file.
It's a really big file.

From The Maritime Executive:
In 1765, a young peasant woman left a remote corner of rural France where her impoverished family had scraped a living for generations. She set out on a journey that would take her around the world from the South American jungles and Magellan Strait to the tropical islands of the Indo-Pacific.
Jeanne Barret (also Baret or Baré) was the first woman known to have circumnavigated the world. Abandoning her bonnet and apron for men’s trousers and coats, she disguised herself as a man and signed on as assistant to the naturalist Philibert Commerson on one of the ships of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville’s expedition around the world.

During that voyage, Jeanne helped Commerson amass the largest individual natural history collection known at the time. Thousands of the plant specimens can still be found in the herbarium of the Paris natural history museum, although few bear Jeanne’s name.

Despite Jeanne’s singular achievement, she left no account of her journey or her life. She might have been entirely forgotten were it not for a dramatic revelation on a Tahitian beach in 1768.
Bougainville’s voyage famously promoted Tahiti as a utopian paradise of beautiful women and sexual freedom. But the Tahitian men were equally keen to meet European women and, despite her disguise, they swiftly identified Jeanne as one....

*The "Things I did not know" file:

Okay, truth be told that's the filing cabinet of the Central Social Institution, Prague, via DesignYouTrust
as seen in "Hmmm...."Global Ocean Circulation Is Speeding Up""
The things I did not know file is much larger.

And last seen in "This Is Pretty Funny: One of the W.H.O.'s Goodwill Ambassadors Is The Wife Of Xi Jinping".

Following The Cyber Attack French Shipping Giant CMA CGM Says There May Be A Data Breach

From the Wall Street Journal, September 30:
CMA CGM SA said some of its data may have been stolen after a malware attack that forced the global container line to shut down its main booking platform, delay cargo deliveries and halt electronic communications with clients and customs authorities.

“We suspect a data breach and are doing everything possible to assess its potential volume and nature,” a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

France-based CMA CGM, the world’s fourth-largest container shipping line by capacity, said late Tuesday that the cyberattack over the weekend on two of its Asia-Pacific subsidiaries was being contained and that “all communications to and from the CMA CGM Group are secure, including emails, transmitted files and electronic data interchange interfaces.”

The company said in a customer advisory that it had suspended access to electronic bookings through its websites to protect customers. It said all cargo booked before Sept. 27 was secure, but later bookings will be processed as soon as possible....

The original attack was a ransomware extortion
Via Lloyd's List:


Turkey to Greece: "We will solve our issues on the battlefield”

From Greek City Times, September 29:
Turkey has expressed extreme annoyance by the visit of US Secretary of State to Greece.

In particular, a spokesperson for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of unilateralism and said his attitude is inelegant.

Ömer Çelik, the AKP spokesperson, even called on Pompeo to maintain a neutral stance because unilateral visits and statements give the wrong messages.

At the same time, he once again made provocative statements regarding Ankara’s intentions in Greek-Turkish issues in the East Mediterranean.

“Turkey is a country of diplomacy if they want to solve the problem with diplomacy, but if they do not want, we will solve it on the battlefield,” he said.

Today, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Pompeo paid a visit to the military facilities of Souda base in Crete.

Mitsotakis and Pompeo were guided and informed by the commanders of the two bases, the American and the Greek, and then went to the naval base in Marathi at pier K14. At the same time, they were guided to a Greek frigate located at the port....

If interested here are the Greek/U.S. joint press statements.

What with the Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq, the Armenians in the east saying "Never Again" in reference to the Turkish atrocities and genocide and Greece in the West, Turkey is down to five neighbors it isn't getting belligerent with, Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, Iran and Russia.

Whenever I think about Turkish-Russian relations I think of this painting:

That's "Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks" by Repin, hanging in the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

As the story goes, in 1676 the Turkish Sultan, despite being beaten by the Cossacks when he tried to invade what is now southern Ukraine, demanded these guys surrender and submit to Turkish rule.

And as can be seen, the Cossacks thought this was the funniest thing they had ever heard and wrote a letter in response.
A very profane, very defiant, very vulgar, very contemptuous letter.

These old boys just cracked themselves up with their letter.
And that's what I think of when I think of Russians and Turks.

Spear's "Special report: Is Hong Kong’s status as Asia’s financial capital in danger?"

From Spear's Magazine:

The recent unrest in Hong Kong has put its status as Asia’s financial capital in danger. Can it survive this turbulent spell?
It’s a 14-minute journey from Futian station in Shenzhen to West Kowloon station in Hong Kong on one of China’s new high-speed trains. This section of the line, which connects to Beijing 1,500 miles away, was opened in 2018. As a result you can leave the former British colony after breakfast and be in Tiananmen Square in time for dinner.

Of course, this isn’t the only way the centre of Communist Party power has got much closer to the lives of people of Hong Kong of late. The introduction this summer of the National Security Law – permitting the extradition of Hongkongers to China with minimal judicial oversight – has subverted the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and demonstrated once and for all that Beijing is not interested in playing nicely.

‘It is one of the biggest assaults on a liberal society since the Second World War,’ opined the Economist, under the headline ‘A safe harbour no more’.

Eight minutes’ drive from the Kowloon terminus is another sign of the times: a branch of UBS, the Swiss private wealth giant, which opened in 2016. It’s no coincidence that it’s here, even though UBS already had its main Hong Kong hub in the IFC Tower 2 in Central, across Victoria Harbour.

‘They discovered it was too intimidating for Chinese clients to come over to Hong Kong island and go to the IFC on the 52nd floor,’ says one financial services veteran. A senior investment banker, who asks not to be named, speculates that UBS may have been responding to a different impulse on the part of their mainland customers: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them said, “I don’t want to go that effing high-profile IFC, where the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is – let’s do it more discreetly in Kowloon.”’

Whatever the reason, UBS isn’t alone: Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley have both relocated to Kowloon from Central. The shift of these institutions all follows the centre of financial gravity in Asia.

According to a family offices presentation from a trio of Hong Kong financial bodies, including that monetary authority, the special administrative region is now part of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, a region with a population of 70 million – more than greater Tokyo, the San Francisco bay area and New York City combined – and home to 17,000 UHNW families.

But that’s a fraction of the 80,000-plus UHNW families in Greater China, according to the presentation. So it makes sense that ‘the biggest teams in private banking in Hong Kong are all ones covering mainland China’. The jurisdiction banks just north of $3 trillion, of which private banking and wealth management account for $1 trillion.

In terms of cross-border assets, it is second only to Switzerland, managing $1.2 trillion to Switzerland’s $2.3 trillion. Singapore, long snapping at Hong Kong’s heels, is third on $1 trillion.
Unsurprisingly, the Hong Kong marketing material highlights in bold sections of Article 112 of the Basic Law: ‘No foreign exchange control policies shall be applied in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Hong Kong dollar shall be freely convertible… The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall safeguard the free flow of capital.’

Yet despite the recent bad news, you don’t have to look far to find those who will stand up for Hong Kong. ‘Warren Buffett says never bet against America,’ says British-educated Patrick Tsang, third-generation principal of a Hong Kong-headquartered family office, Tsangs Group.

‘I would say to everyone, don’t bet against Hong Kong.’ Tsang accepts that the unrest will have caused business to divert to Dubai or Singapore, but he backs the dynamism of the economy and the work ethic of the people....

Huh, Bloomberg Seems Rather Enthusiastic About Hydrogen

From Bloomberg:

Hydrogen Breaks Through as the Hottest Thing in Green Energy
Wind and solar power are the main focus in the fight against climate change, but there are sources of greenhouse gases they can’t clean up. Manufacturing steel, cement and chemicals has traditionally required fossil fuels, either to burn to create the extreme temperatures needed, or as raw materials and catalysts for chemical reactions. That’s why hydrogen is becoming the new climate bet. It burns far more cleanly than fossil fuels, can stand in for carbon in some reactions and so-called green hydrogen — gas produced using electricity from renewable sources — is essentially emissions free. Hydrogen is also seen as a clean solution for fueling cars, trucks and ships and heating buildings. All that involves vast expense and work of creating a new energy industry almost from scratch, and bringing costs down to competitive levels.

1. What’s hydrogen’s advantage?
Hydrogen flames hot and clean. Replacing the fossil fuels now used in furnaces that reach 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,700 Fahrenheit) with hydrogen could make a big dent in the 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions that now come from industry. In steelmaking, hydrogen could replace the coal that’s now used not only for heat but as a purifying agent. Hydrogen also removes the oxygen from the iron ore, but the result is water vapor rather than CO2.

2. How is it made?
There’s plenty of hydrogen in the atmosphere around us, but harnessing it for industrial purposes is a different matter. Here are the main techniques for manufacturing it:
  • A way of making green hydrogen is via electrolysis, a process that sends an electric current through water to split hydrogen atoms from oxygen. Using renewable electricity to feed the process is key to harvesting the full benefit of hydrogen. Nowadays, most of the hydrogen used as fuel is derived by splitting it off from molecules of natural gas. But that requires a good deal of energy and also produces carbon dioxide at the same time, making the process decidedly unclean. So switching to electricity generated by renewables is key to harvesting the full benefit of hydrogen.
  • Another technology option for producing hydrogen from renewables is steam reforming of biomethane and biogas, in which high-temperature steam reacts with the methane source, in the presence of a catalyst.
  • There are also other less developed technologies, such as pyrolysis, which heats up natural gas until it generates hydrogen. Carbon is produced as a residue, but in a solid form that’s easier to store without adding to atmospheric emissions.
3. Who’s doing this?
The European Union has set a target to build 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers by 2030, the equivalent of twice the capacity of China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest energy plant. For that, it envisages as much as 470 billion euros of public and private investments by 2050 and plans to kickstart a global hydrogen market, allowing the fuel to be traded as a liquid commodity denominated in euros. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s climate cabinet said in September green hydrogen would play a central role in “rebuilding” Germany’s industrial base as it moves to zero emissions by 2050.
4. What’s happening elsewhere?
In Asia, a number of countries are pursuing hydrogen more as a way of diversifying their energy sources, than on the need to reduce carbon emissions. Most countries in the region are focusing on the use of hydrogen for transport and electricity generation. Japan has the world-largest renewable powered hydrogen project, with 10 gigawatts of capacity, and is the leader in hydrogen refueling stations. South Korea plans to have six cities completely fueled by hydrogen by 2025 as part of the country’s efforts to accelerate the energy transition. The U.S. has 6,500 fuel cell electric cars available to costumers or running on the roads — the world’s largest fleet, accounting for almost half of the global market.

5. What’s the private sector doing?
Most of the world’s energy companies and big industrial groups are involved in hydrogen somehow. Among the most recent announcements were Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc., that plans to build three hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants in the U.S. and Germany’s RWE, which plans to supply hydrogen to steel maker Thyssenkrupp AG and to promote the use of the fuel at its planned liquefied natural gas terminal in Germany. The U.K.’s ITM Power and Ceres Power, Sweden’s Powercell and Norway’s Nel ASA are among the listed companies whose core business involve hydrogen technologies. Australia’s Infinite Blue Energy said it plans an initial public offering that would make it the first zero-emissions hydrogen company to list on the Australian Stock Exchange. Utility giant Entergy Corp. is taking steps to throttle back its reliance on natural gas by investing in hydrogen production with Mitsubishi Power. And European planemaker Airbus SE is working on designs for hydrogen-powered aircraft as it races to bring a zero-carbon passenger plane into service by 2035....

We too have heard the siren song of hydrogen.
A Google search of the blog shows 484 posts: hydrogen

Indeed, at times I was concerned long-suffering reader would get bored so we tried to liven things up:

I'm tellin' ya

It may be in fits and starts but hydrogen is coming.
"Hi, do you have a moment to learn about the potential of hydrogen and/or ammonia?"
Bear via Cottage Life
Caption idea by way of the incomparable Paul Bronks
We've been banging this drum* so long I feel I have to at least try to keep patient, yet wary, reader amused. 

"Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Stocks Are Soaring. Yes, It’s a Bubble"
Have I mentioned hydrogen?

An approach you probably won't see at Bloomberg.

"Elon Musk's Starlink Is A Very Big Deal"

I had intended to add this to the post immediately below but decided to go with the video.
A repost from November 2019:

From Casey Handmer's Blog:
Part of my series countering misconceptions in space journalism.

Starlink, SpaceX’s plan to serve internet via tens of thousands of satellites, is a staple in the space press, with articles appearing every week on the latest developments. The broad schema is clear and, thanks to filings with the FCC, a sufficiently well motivated individual (such as your humble servant) can deduce a great deal of detail. Despite this, there is still an unusually high degree of confusion around this new technology, even among expert commentators. It is not uncommon to read articles comparing Starlink to OneWeb and Kuiper (among others), as though they were all equal competitors. It is not uncommon to read of well-meaning concerns regarding space junk, space law, regulation, and harm to astronomy. It is my hope that by the end of this rather lengthy post, the reader will be both better informed and more excited by Starlink.

My previous post on Starship struck an unexpected chord with my ordinarily sparse readership. In it, I explained how Starship would greatly lengthen SpaceX’s lead over competing launch providers and, at the same time, provide a mechanism for the redevelopment of space. The subtext here is that the conventional satellite industry was unable to keep up with SpaceX’s steadily increasing capacity and decreasing costs on the Falcon family of launchers, leaving SpaceX in a difficult position. On the one hand, it was saturating a market worth, at most, a few billion a year. And on the other, it was developing an insatiable appetite for cash to build an enormous rocket with almost no paying customers, and then fly thousands of them to Mars for no immediate economic return.

The answer to these twin problems is Starlink. By developing their own satellites, SpaceX could create and define a new market for highly capable, democratized space communication access, provide a revenue stream and payloads for their own rocket even as they self-cannibalized, and eventually unlock trillions in economic value. Do not underestimate the scale of Elon’s ambition. There are only three trillion dollar industries in existence: energy, high speed transport, and communications. Despite common misconceptions, space mining, lunar water, and space-based solar power are not viable businesses. Elon has a play in energy with Tesla, but only communications provides a reliable, deep market for satellites and launch.

Elon Musk’s first space-related idea was to spend $80m on a philanthropic mission to grow a plant on a Mars lander. Building a Mars city will cost maybe 100,000 times as much. Starlink is Elon’s main bet to deliver the ocean of gold needed to philanthropically build a self-sustaining city on Mars.

I have been planning some version of this post for a very long time but until last week, I didn’t quite have all the pieces in place. Then SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell gave an incredible interview with Rob Baron, covered by Michael Sheetz for CNBC in a glorious Twitter thread and a couple of articles. This interview cast into sharp relief the difference in approach between SpaceX’s take on communications satellites and everyone else.

Starlink was born conceptually in 2012 when SpaceX realized that its customers, primarily comsat providers, had better margins than they did. Launch providers charge famously unreasonable rates to place satellites in orbit, and yet somehow there was a piece of the action that they had missed? Elon dreamed of an internet constellation and, unable to resist a near-impossible technical challenge, got the ball rolling. The Starlink development process has had its difficulties but by the end of this post you, the reader, will probably be surprised just how few difficulties there were, given the magnitude of the underlying vision.

Why do we need an enormous constellation of satellites to provide internet? Why now?
In just my lifetime the internet has grown from an academic curiosity to the single most transformational piece of infrastructure ever built. This isn’t the topic for an extended discussion of the internet, but I will assume that global demand for internet and the wealth it brings will continue to rapidly grow by about 25% a year.

But today, almost all of us get our internet from a tiny handful of geographically-isolated monopolies. In the US, AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, and a handful of smaller players have divided up the country to avoid competition, charge exorbitant rates for bad service, and bask in near universal hatred.

There is a compelling reason, besides overwhelming greed, for anti-competitive behavior among internet service providers. The underlying infrastructure of the internet, microwave cell towers and optical fiber, are extremely expensive to build. It’s easy to forget just how miraculous the data-transfer properties of the internet are. My grandmother’s first job was as a Morse code operator during the Second World War – a medium that competed with homing pigeons for preeminent strategic value! For most of us, riding the information superhighway is so disembodied, so incorporeal, that we forget that those bits have to traverse our physical world with all its borders, rivers, mountains, oceans, storms, natural disasters, and other annoyances. Neal Stephenson wrote the definitive essay on cybertourism when the first internet-dedicated oceanic optical fiber cable was laid, all the way back in 1996. His characteristic sharp prose ably describes the sheer cost and difficulty of building these wretched lolcat pipes. For much of the 2000s, so much cable was being laid that the rate of deployment, combined across multiple ships, was supersonic.

At the time I worked in a optics lab and (IIRC) we demonstrated a then record-breaking multiplexing record of 500Gb/s. Limitations in electronics meant that each fiber was carrying something like 0.1% of its theoretical maximum capacity. 15 years later, we’re approaching those limits. Beyond a certain point, transmitting more data down a given fiber will melt it, and that time is not too far off.....

"Elon Musk Says SpaceX Could IPO Starlink—But Only Under One Big Condition"

From Observer:
Elon Musk is changing his mind about spinning off SpaceX’s Starlink as a separate public company as the satellite-based internet project makes rapid progress toward providing global service.
“We will probably IPO Starlink,” Musk tweeted on Monday, “but only several years in the future when revenue growth is smooth and predictable.”

The tweet clarified months of rumors around a possible Starlink IPO. In February, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told investors that “Starlink is the right kind of business… we are likely to spin out and go public.”

However, at a satellite conference a month later, CEO Musk said his rocket company was putting “zero” thought toward taking Starlink public, stressing that his priority was to get the constellation work first. At the time, SpaceX had launched 300 Starlink satellites, about a quarter of what’s required to provide global internet coverage....

If you recall, it wasn't all smooth sailing for SpaceX:

"Huang's Law Is the New Moore's Law, and Explains Why Nvidia Wants Arm" (NVDA)

And speaking of ARM/Nvidia

From the Wall Street Journal, September 19:
During modern computing's first epoch, one trend reigned supreme: Moore's Law.

Actually a prediction by Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore rather than any sort of physical law, Moore's Law held that the number of transistors on a chip doubles roughly every two years. It also meant that performance of those chips -- and the computers they powered -- increased by a substantial amount on roughly the same timetable. This formed the industry's core, the glowing crucible from which sprang trillion-dollar technologies that upended almost every aspect of our day-to-day existence.

As chip makers have reached the limits of atomic-scale circuitry and the physics of electrons, Moore's law has slowed, and some say it's over. But a different law, potentially no less consequential for computing's next half century, has arisen.

I call it Huang's Law, after Nvidia Corp. chief executive and co-founder Jensen Huang. It describes how the silicon chips that power artificial intelligence more than double in performance every two years. While the increase can be attributed to both hardware and software, its steady progress makes it a unique enabler of everything from autonomous cars, trucks and ships to the face, voice and object recognition in our personal gadgets.

Between November 2012 and this May, performance of Nvidia's chips increased 317 times for an important class of AI calculations, says Bill Dally, chief scientist and senior vice president of research at Nvidia. On average, in other words, the performance of these chips more than doubled every year, a rate of progress that makes Moore's Law pale in comparison.

Nvidia's specialty has long been graphics processing units, or GPUs, which operate efficiently when there are many independent tasks to be done simultaneously. Central processing units, or CPUs, like the kind that Intel specializes in, are on the other hand much less efficient but better at executing a single, serial task very quickly. You can't chop up every computing process so that it can be efficiently handled by a GPU, but for the ones you can -- including many AI applications -- you can perform it many times as fast while expending the same power.

Intel was a primary driver of Moore's Law, but it was hardly the only one. Perpetuating it required tens of thousands of engineers and billions of dollars in investment across hundreds of companies around the globe. Similarly, Nvidia isn't alone in driving Huang's Law -- and in fact its own type of AI processing might, in some applications, be losing its appeal. That's probably a major reason it has moved to acquire chip architect Arm Holdings this month, another company key to ongoing improvement in the speed of AI, for $40 billion.

The pace of improvement in AI-specific hardware will make possible a range of applications both utopian and dystopian, from the end of automobile accidents to ubiquitous surveillance. But it's also enabling, right now, a less fantastical application with huge implications for how we shop and the fate of millions of retail jobs: cashierless checkout.

San Francisco-based tech company Standard recently announced a deal with Circle K to turn some of its stores into "grab and go" experiences in the mold of Inc.'s Amazon Go stores. The three-year-old startup installs cameras throughout stores, then routes video from them to Nvidia-powered systems in the back, which perform tens of trillions of calculations a second. As shoppers grab objects off store shelves, the system tallies it all, and bills them through their mobile devices as they walk out.

For perspective, a system performing this many operations a second is faster than the most powerful supercomputer in the world was as recently as 2012, at least at AI inference tasks.
"Honestly we could do nothing and just wait and Nvidia will drop our prices every year," says Jordan Fisher, Standard's founder and CEO.

Another category that Huang's Law affects is autonomous vehicles. At San Diego-based TuSimple, a rapidly expanding autonomous-trucking startup, the challenge is making a self-driving system that can fit the power and space limitations of a diesel-powered semi-trailer truck. On a typical TuSimple vehicle, that means cramming the entire system, which can't draw more than 5 kilowatts, into an air-cooled cabinet in the sleeper cab.

Given such power constraints, what matters most is performance per watt. TuSimple is seeing performance double every year on its Nvidia-powered systems, says Xiaodi Hou, the company's co-founder and chief technology officer.
Similar boosts in performance have been occurring since the mid-2000s in a very different area of AI: our mobile phones.

In 2017, Apple introduced the iPhone 8, which included its Neural Engine. Apple designed the chip specifically to run machine-learning tasks, which are important to many kinds of AI. (Its chip-manufacturing partner is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.)

Apple's decision to make the chip accessible to any app on the phone -- as well as the introduction of comparable chips and software on Android phones -- allowed for new kinds of AI businesses, says Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz, co-founder and chief technology officer of Nexar, a company that makes AI-powered dashboard cameras for cars. By processing on users' phones streams of video captured by dashboard cameras, Nexar's technology can alert drivers to imminent hazards.

Uses of mobile AI are multiplying, in phones and smart devices ranging from dishwashers to door locks to lightbulbs, as well as the millions of sensors making their way to cities, factories and industrial facilities. And chip designer Arm Holdings -- whose patents Apple, among many tech companies large and small, licenses for its iPhone chips -- is at the center of this revolution.
Over the last three to five years, machine-learning networks have been increasing by orders of magnitude in efficiency, says Dennis Laudick, vice president of marketing in Arm's machine-learning group. "Now it's more about making things work in a smaller and smaller environment," he adds. Arm's smallest and most energy-sipping chips, tiny enough to be powered by a watch battery, can now enable cameras to recognize objects in real time.

This movement of AI processing from the cloud to the "edge" -- that is, on the devices themselves -- explains Nvidia's desire to buy Arm, says Nexar co-founder and CEO Eran Shir. Nvidia has a near monopoly on AI processing in the cloud. But where two years ago, Nexar performed 40% of its data processing in the cloud, Arm-based chips have enabled it to do much more of that processing in mobile devices, and faster, since it doesn't have to be transmitted over the internet first. Today, the cloud is doing only 15% of the work. In addition, some functions, like a vision-based parking assistant, were not even possible until recently, when the chips in phones became much more capable....

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

"Pressure grows for U.K. to intervene in Nvidia’s $40 billion Arm takeover" (NVDA)

From MarketWatch:

Last Updated: Sept. 29, 2020 at 1:23 p.m. ET

Critics cite national security, homegrown technology, and jobs among concerns surrounding SoftBank’s sale of Arm to Nvidia 
The U.K. government is assessing the impact of Nvidia’s $40 billion takeover of Arm, as pressure for it to intervene and protect the Cambridge-based chip maker grows.
It comes amid a growing backlash against the deal, as shareholders, politicians and industry experts raise concerns over national security, the loss of crucial homegrown technology, and key roles to a foreign buyer.
The Santa Clara, California-based graphics chip giant announced a deal on Sept. 13 to buy Arm from its current owner, SoftBank of Japan, in a move designed to transform the global semiconductor landscape. 
Arm’s chips are used worldwide to help power mobile device processors for companies including Apple,  Amazon, Samsung and Qualcomm.

Critics of the deal have warned that Arm’s acquisition by Nvidia, which recently overtook Intel to become the world’s most valuable chip maker, will place too much dominance in one company’s hands.
The deal still needs to gain approval from regulators in a number of countries, including the U.S., the U.K., and China, and in the European Union.

What has Nvidia promised?
Nvidia has pledged to keep Arm’s headquarters in Cambridge and expand its research and development presence in the English city, including building an artificial intelligence and education center.

It said it will not change Arm’s business model of licensing its designs to customers, and Nvidia has promised to add its own technology to the portfolio of intellectual property that Arm can license.
When SoftBank acquired Arm in 2016, it made legally binding assurances that the headquarters would stay in Cambridge, and to double the company’s U.K workforce over five years....

Also at MarketWatch:
Opinion: Nvidia’s deal with Arm paves the path to a trillion-dollar market value

"Arm co-founder starts ‘Save Arm’ campaign to keep independence amid $40B Nvidia deal" (NVDA)

Cambridge Tech Grandee Hermann Hauser Says Selling ARM to Nvidia Would Be a Disaster

"Nvidia Buying Arm Would be Reckless"

Apparently Azerbaijan Hired Turkish Backed Syrian Jihadi Mercenaries

More from Armenpress.
First the scene setter from ABC News U.S.
Armenia and Azerbaijan battle amid reports that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were deployed
And a story in four headlines:
Azerbaijan hired jihadist terrorists, militants from Syria to attack Artsakh – names released 
Jihadist mercenaries mutiny in Azerbaijan, start looting villages and try to impose Sharia Law 

Sharia Law, chaos and looting against Azerbaijani citizens –Baku’s plan to hire jihadists implodes 

Turkish press says Ankara considers deploying troops to Azerbaijan

Armenian Press Reports Turkey Shot Down An Armenian Jet, Turkey Denies

First up, Armenpress:

URGENT: Turkish F-16 shoots down Armenia jet in Armenian airspace
YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 29, ARMENPRESS. Turkish air force F-16s have been deployed against Armenia and shot down an Armenian military aircraft amid the Azeri attack on Artsakh, the Armenian military said.

“Today, starting from 10:30, Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jets took off from the Gyanja airport in Azerbaijan and were ensuring the Azerbaijani SU-25 and Turkish-made Bayraktar UAV bombings from the Azerbaijani Dalyar airport at the Armenian settlements and Armed Forces land divisions positioned in the Vardenis, Mets Masrik and Sotk regions of the Vardenis region in Armenia....

And at USA Today:
Armenia, Azerbaijan conflict escalates; Turkey calls allegation of downing jet 'absolutely untrue'

I don't know if you can trust the reporting in any of these third world countries, Armenia, America, etcetera, but USA Today is an especially interesting case.They do fact checks:
The claim: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The claim: Jill Biden said that former Vice President Joe Biden has had three strokes.

So we'll check in tomorrow to see what their verdict on the shootdown is.

"Could ESG Investing Disrupt The LNG Boom?"

That appears to be the plan for the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund and a couple other two comma ($100,000,000+) budget groups.
I'm not sure where the Environmental Defense Fund is at these days, in the past they have been scolded by their pressure group brethren for sincerely believing natural gas was a 'bridge' or transition fuel.

It is tricky though. As I mentioned in 2012's "Sierra Club Battles Efforts to Export Natural Gas (LNG)":
The Sierra Club secretly took $26 mil. from #2 gas producer Chesapeake to fund its anti-coal campaign, while telling members it did not, then turned on NatGas.
I haven't pulled their last Form 990 but in 2010 their income was around $52 million meaning that CHK's 2007-2010 contributions were definitely meaningful.
"...Don't never, ever trust whitey."*...
Anyhoo, here's the headline story:
Global natural gas demand and within it, liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand, is set to grow in the long term, despite the setback in demand for all kinds of energy due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coal-to-gas switching from North America to Europe and Asia, as well as increased use of natural gas in the industrial sector, will drive demand for LNG over the next two decades, analysts and the key players in the LNG market say.  

However, the expected growth in demand in LNG consumption through 2040 is not without risks, most of which have nothing to do with COVID-19 and its impact on the energy markets, Wood Mackenzie said in a recent analysis.

The ongoing drive toward clean technologies—much cleaner than natural gas—such as green hydrogen and carbon capture and storage utilization (CCSU), the increased weight of spot pricing on LNG trade, and the increased scrutiny of the carbon intensity of energy sources could drag LNG demand growth slowing down from current projections, WoodMac’s Massimo Di-Odoardo, Global Head of Gas Analysis, and Simon Flowers, Chairman and Chief Analyst, say.

COVID Hasn’t Wiped Out Long-Term LNG Demand  
Due to the pandemic, total global natural gas demand is expected to drop by 4 percent year over year in 2020, but return to growth as early as in 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Gas Union (IGU) say.

The cost-competitiveness of natural gas and the increased access to gas in developing countries are set to be the key drivers of higher gas demand in the medium term, especially for LNG, according to the Global Gas Report 2020 from August published by the IGU, research company BloombergNEF (BNEF), and Italian gas infrastructure firm Snam.

According to the IEA, the global LNG trade will jump to 585 bcm/y by 2025, up by 21 percent compared to 2019, thanks mostly to Asian consumers China and India, while the United States will account for almost all of the net growth on the export side.  
This year alone, despite the gloomy global gas demand outlook, China is set to raise its LNG imports by as much as 10 percent to new records, thanks to lower LNG prices and the faster-than-expected recovery in its industrial sector, analysts told Reuters last week....

"‘Sushi-grade’ fish from salmon cells grown in lab by California startup"

From the New York Post, September 17:
Would you eat fish grown in a lab?

A San Francisco-based cellular agriculture startup thinks people will. The company, Wildtype, said on Wednesday that it has created “sushi-grade” cell-based salmon that it intends to sell to restaurants and, eventually, retailers.

Rather than being caught in the wild or raised in a fish farm, Wildtype’s salmon is grown from coho salmon cells in “a brewery-like system,” according to the company.
The sushi-grade salmon can be cooked in various ways or served raw and used in rolls, nigari and sashimi, according to Wildtype.

The company is taking a pre-order waitlist for any chefs interested in cooking with its products....

Unrelated (except in an ADDled mind):
September 22
Proposed California Fish Farm (sushi-grade yellowtail) Set For Federal Review 
As with the rest of the industry, a pick-up in restaurant business seems critical to long-term survival...

September 24
If Generation Z Won't Eat It Maybe Cats & Dogs Will: "Could Cultured Meat’s First Mass Consumers Be Pets?"
Following on September 10's "Generation Z Not That Keen On Lab Grown Meat"....

Hydrogen: Toyota and Honda Team Up On Fuel Cell Bus as Mobile Power Source for Disaster Relief

As we noted back in July, when CMA CGN joined the CEO-Led Hydrogen Council:
These are not the little guys.
The new co-chair is Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman of Toyota ($275 billion revenue).
He joins Benoît Potier Chair and CEO of Air Liquide ($26 billion revs.) who has been co-chair since 2017.  
From New Atlas, September 7:
Testing of fuel cell bus as mobile power source for disaster relief begins
When disaster strikes, the power often goes out, and it may be a good while before it's restored. Toyota and Honda start testing the Moving e system this month, a fuel cell bus designed to serve as a mobile power source to help meet a community's emergency electricity needs.

The Moving e mobile power generation/output system is made up of a fuel cell bus from Toyota that's able to carry twice the amount of hydrogen as the FC Bus its based on, two Power Exporter 9000 portable power units from Honda, 20 LiB-AID E500 and 36 Honda Mobile Power Pack portable batteries, and charger/dischargers for the Mobile Power Packs. All in, the demonstrator is expected to generate 454 kWh and output 18 kW....

Singapore's KuCoin Crypto Exchange Hacked/Robbed Of Over $150 Million

From CoinDesk:

Over $150M Drained in KuCoin Crypto Exchange Hack
Over $150 million of an Asian cryptocurrency exchange’s funds have been compromised in a security breach.

The Singapore-headquartered digital asset exchange KuCoin said in a statement it detected large withdrawals of bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) tokens to an unknown wallet beginning at 19:05 UTC on Friday.
In a live stream on 4:30 UTC Saturday, KuCoin CEO Johnny Lyu said one or more hackers obtained the private keys to the exchange’s hot wallets. KuCoin transferred what was left in them to new hot wallets, abandoned the old ones and froze customer deposits and withdrawals, Lyu said.

KuCoin’s cold wallets were unaffected, Lyu claimed. Cold cryptocurrency wallets are not connected to the Internet and are considered more secure than hot cryptocurrency wallets. 

In an updated statement on its website, KuCoin released a list of BTC, bitcoin sv (BSV), ETH, litecoin (LTC), XRP, Stellar lumens (XLM), tron (TRX) and tether (USDT) wallet addresses where the stolen funds were transferred.
Two Ethereum wallets belonging to KuCoin have sent more than 11,480 ETH, which currently trades at a price of about $350, to the Ethereum wallet address associated with the hack, according to data from blockchain explorer Etherscan....

Natural Gas Whacked 10% on Warm Weather Forecast

From FX Empire: 
Natural Gas Price Prediction – Prices Tumble on Warm Weather Forecast
Demand rose in the latest week
Natural gas prices tumbled more than 8% on Tuesday as the weather forecast turns milder and traders looked for the exit. Demand increased in the latest week as colder weather buoyed consumption in both residential and commercial buildings. The weather is now expected to be warmer than normal throughout the west which should weigh on natural gas prices. There are no tropical cyclones expected to form in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico over the next 48-hours according to NOAA. 
Technical Analysis
Natural gas prices moved lower on Tuesday dropping 8.5% but holding just above support near an upward sloping trend line that comes in near 2.53...

Here's the last three months of price action via FinViz. The gap up was the switch to the November contract:
2.5070 down .2880 (10.3%)

"The Palantir non-IPO: 5 things to know about the (formerly) secretive software company’s direct listing" (SPOOKY)

From MarketWatch:
11 SEC filings later, Palantir plans to list its stock while co-founders hold on to creative class of shares with ‘variable’ votes
Palantir Technologies Inc. was known for years as being the most secretive unicorn startup in Silicon Valley, but going public has turned the company from a shrinking violet to an exploding fountain of information.
Palantir publicly filed for a direct listing on Aug. 25, and plenty has happened in the month since.
  • In its original filing, Palantir Chief Executive Alexander Karp loudly and publicly broke up with Silicon Valley in a letter at the very beginning of the document, a unique approach that sought to defend Palantir’s secretive work building surveillance and warfare capabilities for the U.S. government and allies. The letter confirmed earlier reports that Palantir had moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, Calif., to Denver, and seemed to denigrate advertising-based businesses such as Facebook Inc. FB, 0.78%, for which co-founder Peter Thiel serves as a board member. “Our company was founded in Silicon Valley,” Karp wrote. “But we seem to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments.” 
  • Executives held a public webcast in which they discussed the company and its financial performance for two full hours, which again led off with a unique personal message from Karp, who was filmed while cross-country skiing. Executives then spent a half hour taking questions from potential investors, with both those videos posted online for later consumption
  • Meanwhile, protesters have demonstrated at the company’s old headquarters in Palo Alto, its new headquarters in Denver and its office in New York, mostly focusing on the company’s work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the U.S. government.
After all of that, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 24 that Palantir had informed investors that shares were expected to begin trading around $10 apiece, a price that would give the company a valuation of roughly $22 billion. Shares are expected to begin trading Sept. 30 on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol PLTR.

Here is what you need to know about Palantir’s direct listing.

Big-data software that got its start with the CIA
The core reason Palantir has been both secretive and controversial since its founding in 2003 is that it began with money from the Central Intelligence Agency to develop data-crunching software for the government. Palantir received original funding from In-Q-Tel, the CIA-funded nonprofit venture-capital arm, to develop its first major product, Gotham, which launched in 2008 to help government entities with surveillance and warfare planning, among other uses.

“Defense agencies in the United States then began using Gotham to investigate potential threats and to help protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices,” Palantir disclosed. “Today, the platform is widely used by government agencies in the United States and its allies.”

Palantir has moved beyond that business, however, and started serving corporate clients in 2016 with its second platform, Foundry. Palantir now says that a little more than half — 53% — of its customers come from the private sector instead of government, even as Palantir considers different divisions in the same government departments as separate customers.

While the majority of Palantir customers may be commercial businesses, that doesn’t mean the majority of its revenue comes from those contracts. Palantir had only 125 customers in the first half of this year that paid an average of $5.6 million each in 2019, but the top 20 customers spent an average of $24.8 million in spending in 2019. And its three largest customers — which Palantir does not name — account for up to a third of the company’s revenue and on average have been customers since well before Foundry was launched....

"The Pandemic Plutocrats: How Covid Is Creating New Fintech Billionaires"

From Forbes, September 25: 

Stay-at-home consumers and stimulus checks have been a boon for online installment financing, digital banks and day trading.
In 2015, Nick Molnar was living with his parents in Sydney, Australia, and selling jewelry from a desktop computer in his childhood bedroom. Hocking everything from $250 Seiko watches to $10,000 engagement rings, the 25-year-old had gotten so good at online marketing that he had become Australia’s top seller of jewelry on eBay, shipping thousands of packages a day.

That same year, he teamed up with Anthony Eisen, a former investment banker who was 19 years his senior and lived across the street. They cofounded Afterpay, an online service that allows shoppers from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada to pay for small-ticket items like shoes and shirts in four interest-free payments over six weeks. “I was a Millennial who grew up in the 2008 crisis, and I saw this big shift away from credit to debit,” the now 30-year-old Molnar says today. Either lacking credit cards or fearful of racking up high-interest-rate debt on their credit cards, Molnar’s generation was quick to embrace this new way to buy and get merchandise now, while paying a little later.

Five years later, Molnar and Eisen, who each own roughly 7% of the company, have become billionaires—during a pandemic. After initially tanking at the start of lockdowns, shares of Afterpay—which went public in 2016—are up nearly tenfold, thanks to a surge in business tied to e-commerce sales. In the second quarter, it handled $3.8 billion of transactions, an increase of 127% versus the same period a year earlier.

They are not the only ones whose fortunes have taken off in the last few months. According to Forbes’ analysis, at least five fintech entrepreneurs including the two Aussies have been vaulted into the billionaire rankings by the pandemic. Others include Chris Britt, founder of digital bank Chime, and Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, the co-CEOs of “free” stock trading app Robinhood. Several other founders from such companies as Klarna and Marqeta have also gotten boosts and are suddenly approaching billionaire status.

As in other sectors, the Covid recession has created both fintech winners and losers. For example, LendingClub, which offers personal loans to higher-risk consumers, laid off 30% of staff; small business lender On Deck was sold in a fire sale.

But for a sizable crop of consumer-facing and payments-related fintechs, the virus has delivered a gust of growth, just as it has for e-commerce behemoth Amazon and work-from-home players Zoom, Slack and DocuSign.

“Consumer fintech adoption was already strong prepandemic, especially among the 20s to early-40s age group,” says Victoria Treyger, a general partner who leads fintech investing at Felicis Ventures. “The pandemic has become a growth rocket, fueling the rapid acceleration of adoption across all age groups, including 40- to 60-year-olds.”

Several Covid-driven developments are helping specific types of fintech players. For example, consumers’ shift to more online spending and delivery services is a boon to certain companies powering payments. Marqeta, a specialized payments processor whose clients include Instacart, DoorDash and Postmates, has been in talks to go public at an $8 billion valuation, four times what it was valued at in March of 2019. That would give CEO Jason Gardner, who owns an estimated 10% of Marqeta, a stake worth $800 million....

"Azerbaijan-Armenia clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh escalate..."

From Al-Jazeera:
  • As the crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalates, diplomatic efforts are underway to stop the fighting. France is calling for an urgent meeting of the Minsk Group, led by Russia, France and the US, to find a solution to the long-running conflict.
  • The fierce fighting, which continued for a third day on Tuesday, has killed dozens of soldiers and at least 11 civilians so far.
  • The UN and the international community have called for an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated settlement.

Here are the latest updates:

11:15 GMT – Kremlin urges Turkey to work for ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

Russia has urged Turkey to work to bring an end to deadly clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist region as Ankara has strongly backed Azerbaijan.“We call on all sides, especially partner countries such as Turkey to do all they can for a ceasefire and get back to a peaceful settlement of this conflict using political and diplomatic means,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

10:40 GMT – Pompeo says violence must stop in Nagorno-Karabakh
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to cease hostilities as clashes continued over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“The foreign minister and I addressed the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh where both sides need to stop the violence and work with the Minsk Group co-chairs and return to substantive negotiations as quickly as possible,” he said, alongside his Greek counterpart during a visit to Crete....


Capital Markets: "Consolidation Still Featured"

From Marc to Market:
Overview: A consolidative tone continues across the capital markets. Equities have lost their momentum. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was mixed, while Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is paring yesterday's sharp 2.2% gain. US shares are little changed but mostly softer. Benchmark 10-year yields are 1-2 basis points lower in Europe, and the US 10-year is steady around 65 bp. The dollar is narrow ranges, mostly a bit softer, led by the Antipodeans and British pound, which has been resilient in recent days. The yen is nursing small losses. The liquid accessible emerging market currencies, like the Russian rouble, Turkish lira, South African rand, and Mexican peso are heavy, and the JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is off for the third consecutive session and for the seventh session in the past eight. Gold is holding near a four-day high a little below $1890. November WTI is consolidating after reaching a five-day high near $40.80. It is the first session in seven that it has not traded below $40, but this may not stand today's North American session.

Asia Pacific
Tokyo's September CPI shows deflation lingers. The headline rate eased from 0.3% year-over-year to 0.2%. However, the core rate, which excludes fresh food, improved to -0.2% from -0.3%. The measure that excludes energy alongside fresh food was flat after a 0.1% decline in August. Tomorrow Japan reports August industrial production and retail sales. The former is expected to slow from the 8.7% gain in July, while the latter is expected to have risen around 2% after a 3.3% decline previously. Separately, NTT has announced it will buy its wireless unit, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary (cost ~JPY4.25 trillion or ~$40 bln), at around a 40% premium. It is not clear the implication for Prime Minister Suga's drive to lower mobile charges.

For a third session, the US dollar is in a roughly JPY105.20-JPY105.70 range. Expiring options are lower than spot and could reinforce the dollar's floor. There are $1.7 bln in option at JPY105.30-JPY105.35 that will be cut and around $3 bln in expiring options in the JPY105.00-JPY105.10 area. However, the upside looks blocked in front of JPY106, leaving range-trading as the most likely scenario today. The Australian dollar has formed a shelf ahead of $0.7000 and is probing higher today. It has tested the $0.7120-level today, a four-day high. It is a little shy of the (38.2%) retracement of last week's erosion. If the momentum stalls, as the intraday technicals suggest is possible, support is near $0.7080. The PBOC set the dollar's reference rate at CNY6.8171, which is slightly higher than many banks expected. Note that while there are calls for further appreciation of the yuan, its 3.6% gain this quarter appears to be the most in a decade.

Several of the major business press have run articles over the past 48 hours or so playing up the difference of opinion on the ECB. That likely means one thing: the hawks are again pressing their case hard. Two issues have surfaced. The first is that some hawks want to slow down the PEPP buying as amid relatively stable and have the flexibility to increase in the future. The other issue is that the staff's forecasts are too pessimistic. These two issues share a common element, and that is a pushback against efforts from the moderates and doves support. The new surge of virus cases in cases and the introduction of measures to contain the spread will serve as a coolant just as the PMIs show that the pace of recovery is stalling. ECB President Lagarde is seen as more of a consensus-builder than Draghi, but it seems clearer than the problem for the hawks is about substance, not really procedures and management styles. The ECB is in a similar position as the Federal Reserve. The pandemic has knocked their respective economies further off-course, but both are reluctant to take new action. That said, the ECB is expected its bond-buying in December, while the Fed's current commitment is open-ended....

Monday, September 28, 2020

"Old green power plants seek to regenerate as Germany turns off subsidies"

From Reuters, September 22:
Wilfried Haas owns a 3 kilowatt solar system which has been running as a micro power station since 1992, helping Germany, Europe’s largest economy, curb its dependence on coal and nuclear power. All that might be about to change.

Together with thousands of other pioneer investors, Haas is considering whether he can continue his micro-generation without the subsidy scheme that helped to give Germany the highest level of installed renewable capacity in Europe.

After the scheme begins to wind down at the start of next year, Germany in the worst case scenario would lose wind and solar energy equivalent to four nuclear power plants in 2021 alone, industry figures show. For now, it is unclear how any gap will be filled.

Lobby groups on all sides are bickering as Berlin thrashes out an updated version of its renewable energy law. The government will discuss the latest draft on Wednesday.

The legislation is needed because when policymakers limited German subsidies to 20 years in 2000, the country had yet to decide on its Energiewende - or shift from coal and nuclear power to renewable energy.

Haas, 62, began his career in renewable generation before the government’s big policy change. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 prompted him to leave his job in industry and he set up a renewable project company GEDEA-Ingelheim in Ingelheim, west of Frankfurt.

Once they became law, Haas benefited from the subsidies, known as feed-in tariffs, for selling renewable energy to the grid at about 50 cents per kilowatt hour.

Without them, he faces earning no more than the wholesale power price of around of 2-4 cents.
Protecting the environment was central, Haas said, and he hoped to continue operating his micro generation but it may cease to be economic if at any stage he faces a major repair bill.

“In that case the financial burden would become too great, meaning that in the current regulatory framework continuing to operate it likely won’t pay off,” he said....

You don't hear much about Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) these days but a decade ago, oh those were jolly times.
January 2010 
"Germany moves toward trimming solar power incentives" and "France Cuts Solar Tariffs by 24%" (FSLR)
Investors must bear in mind that solar is less a business than it is a subsidy conduit....
February 2011 
Italy's Solar Orgy (FSLR; SPWRA; STP; TSL; YGE)
The SEO consultants say that words like 'orgy' in the headline are good for pageviews.
Personally I think it just leads to confused [and disappointed -ed] visitors....

There was a reason for the choice of our first recipient of the Climateer "Our Hero" award back in 2007.

The 26th Secretary of War, the Democrat and Republican (!) Senator from Pennsylvania, Simon Cameron:
Our Hero
Simon Cameron
"The honest politician is one who 
when he is bought, will stay bought."